After the African Union acknowledged that Ugandan troops in AMISOM executed civilians at a wedding in Merka in late July, Inner City Press asked the UN (on August 24) and Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK, what will the UN Security Council which authorized AMISOM, and UN Peacekeeping which supports it, do?
On August 28, in response to Inner City Press’ question to Ambassador Rycroft, the UK Mission to the UN told Inner City Press:
“You asked about a recent AMISOM incident. We are aware of reports of civilian deaths in recent AMISOM operations. This is a very serious allegation. The AU has apologised and is investigating, including through recalling the local AMISOM commander for questioning.
“The AU now needs to follow up and ensure accountability.
“Incidents like this underline the need for AMISOM to improve protection of civilians in operations. The Security Council has repeatedly called for a civilian casualty response cell in AMISOM. The UK is taking forward discussions with the AU to get a cell established as soon as possible.”
The UK answer was appreciated, and was followed later on August 28 by the UN spokesperson’s office answer, after four days, to Inner City Press’ August 24 question:
Aug 24 ICP Q: “In Somalia, now that AMISOM (which is supported by UNSOA) has admitted killing civilians at Merka (or Marka) in late July, what is the UN’s response and how will the UN human rights due diligence policy be implemented?”
Aug 28 UN answer: “On Somalia, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) sent an investigation team to Merka in late July and is coordinating with AMISOM on their ongoing independent investigation. UNSOM’s UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP) task force has met in Mogadishu to discuss findings and actions taken by AMISOM and recommendations from the meeting are currently under internal review. The UN calls for the expedited investigation of alleged cases of unlawful deaths, injuries and human rights violations and UN support to partners is based on the condition of compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law. The UN welcomes the decisions of both the Government of Somalia and the Interim South West Administration (ISWA) to establish committees to investigate these incidents. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative Nicholas Kay has held meetings with his AMISOM counterpart, the Force Commander, and the relevant contingent Commander to press for an investigation, accountability and corrective measures.”
We’ll stay on this.
Back on July 28 when the UN Security Council adopted a Somalia resolution days after allegations of reprisal killings by AMISOM in Marka, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Rycroft:
Inner City Press: On Somalia, there are a lot of Al Shabaab attacks, there have also been some recent allegations of a reprisal attack by AMISOM. And the UN said they asked the African Union. But given the increasing support in relation with the UN, what should be done to help the African Union forces don’t commit abuses while fighting Al Shabaab?
Amb Rycroft: “So the very clear message from this resolution is first of all that AMISOM does need to get stronger in its robust response to some attacks. But it does need to do so in a way that has absolute clarity about command and control. And we’re looking to see that improve through the mission statement in this resolution.
“And in terms of allegation of any inappropriate behaviour by any members of AMISOM, or the other UN peacekeeping operations, all of those allegations need to be followed up rapidly and robustly, and we are putting in place through this resolution and through the work that the African Union has done, measures that will allow the African Union to get a tighter grip on these sorts of allegations.”
But what does this “grip” mean? What implications does this have under the UN’s supposed Human Rights Due Diligence Policy?
Now AU envoy and AMISOM head Sidokou has admitted the killings of civilians had taken place. “We have established that, on that occasion, seven civilians died following an incident involving our troops,” Sidokou said in a statement issued in Kenya.
The UNSC resolution itself, while “welcoming the AU’s investigation of allegations of sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by some AMISOM troops,” expresses “its disappointment that the AU did not receive full cooperation from all AMISOM troop contributing countries in carrying out its investigation, and calling on the AU and troop contributing countries to ensure that allegations are properly investigated and appropriate follow-up action is taken.”
Back on May 8 when the UN’s outgoing humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Philippe Lazzarini held a press conference, Inner City Press asked him about the impact of money transfer and remittance being cut off, about the future of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya — and about Puntland and Somaliland, where people fleeing Yemen are landing.Video here.
Lazzarini said that remittances have been cut from the UK, US, Australia and more recently Kenya; the latter country might reinstate some of the money transfer companies, he said. Returns to Somalia from Dadaab should be voluntary.
In response to Inner City Press’ question about the involvement of some parts of the UN, and of the International Organization for Migration in screening refugees including for “counter-terrorism,” Lazzarini said that the government of Somalia is concerned about returnees who might have joined certain groups while in Yemen. Can you say, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula? There is more transparency needed, however, particularly from IOM.
Lazzarini has previously answered Inner City Press about Somaliland’s airspace. On May 8 when Inner City Press asked about the UN’s dealings with Somaliland and Puntland, he said it is a big topic, but concretely the deadly attack on UNICEF in Puntland means one can no longer say Puntland more safe than, say, Mogadishu. But what about Somaliland? We will have more on this.
Lazzarini is headed next to Lebanon; we’ll continue to cover his and the UN’s work there, and wish him luck.
By Matthew Russell Lee